European corn borer, Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner), adults were sampled at 13 sites along two perpendicular 720-km transects intersecting in central Iowa and for the following two generations at four of the same sites separated by 240 km in the cardinal directions. More than 50 moths from each sample location and time were genotyped at eight microsatellite loci. Spatial analyses indicated that there is no spatial genetic structuring between European corn borer populations sampled 720 km apart at the extremes of the transects and no pattern of genetic isolation by distance at that geographic scale. Although these results suggest high gene flow over the spatial scale tested, it is possible that populations have not had time to diverge since the central Corn Belt was invaded by this insect ≈60 yr ago. However, temporal analyses of genetic changes in single locations over time suggest that the rate of migration is indeed very high. The results of this study suggest that the geographic dimensions of European corn borer populations are quite large, indicating that monitoring for resistance to transgenic Bt corn at widely separated distances is justified, at least in the central Corn Belt. High gene flow further implies that resistance to Bt corn may be slow to evolve, but once it does develop, it may spread geographically with such speed that mitigation strategies will have to be implemented quickly to be effective.
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